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Day 365 - Celebrating one year abroad

One year in Azerbaijan

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Tuesday 2nd of June marks the one year anniversary of arriving in Azerbaijan, so I thought to note down a few reflections of the year abroad.

I vividly remember arriving at the airport in Azerbaijan, nervous, excited and full of wonder. It was a dizzying thought that this foreign country would be the place I would call home for the next year.

Standing in the shuttle bus at the airport I was looking at the people around, a few solemn looking businessmen looking bored and tired, an old woman leaning heavily on her son as the bus started driving, a little girl with pigtails and big brown eyes excitedly pointing at everything happening around. It seemed like the girl was the only one sharing my emotions of wonder and excitement for arriving in Azerbaijan. Her mother was wearily looking out without enthusiasm. Perhaps it was also the girls first time in Azerbaijan, or she was just happy to be back home, at any rate she was just as excited as me to finally be in Baku!

Now one year later I would probably be more like the bored business men arriving at the airport, the romantic honeymoon stage of my journey is lone gone, and has been replaced with routine of ordinary life. But I still remember and treasure the first few weeks when I was experiencing Azerbaijan for the first time.

One of the things I love with being abroad is the wonder of it all, how you can be like a child again exploring and discovering the world. Okay, I admit, that might be a bit of a romantic take on it, at times adapting to a new country is more a feeling of frustration, embarrassing and helpless. But for sure

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My experience somehow came to a full circle at the 365th day (That would be Tuesday 2nd June 2014). I was showing an intern around the city and to her new work. The girl had just arrived a few days earlier and all of this was very new for her. I took her around to her new work, took her out to lunch in one of my favorite restaurants and talked about the experience of living in Azerbaijan.

Over the last year I have gotten used to many things I couldn't understand in the beginning. For example when the bus we were supposed to take to the city suddenly changed its route and started going in the opposite direction. A year ago, I would be lost, but now I had gotten used to the roads and paths and managed to find our way from his strange route. Dealing with narcissistic businessmen (who of course were late for our appointed meeting time by 50 minutes). Who arrogantly told us “yes, yes, we can negotiate the working hours”, though we already have a clear contract on it. I found myself firmly repeating the same contract to him and what they had agreed on, I have started to understand the language of business now and learned the hard way that every condition, deliverable and requirement needs to be stared clearly. (And to always have a wide buffer in the timeline, as nothing will happen on time.

The last year has been a (for the lack of better words) rollercoaster. It has been amazing, frustrating, perspective-changing exhausting and unforgettable experience. Its not over yet, I still have 28 more days to go, and I plan on making more memorable experiences! F758041E2219AC681719A6C2A04DA066.jpg2013-06-24_21_32_15-1.jpg2013-06-24_20_09_25-2.jpg

Posted by CamillaS 22:05 Archived in Azerbaijan Tagged picture reflection baku azerbaijan abroad living_abroad 2014 one_year_abroad Comments (0)

Flowers and Art in Azerbaijan

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Last weekend summer temperature finally set in and like a true Norwegian decided to utilize it by spending the weekend outside. (I only have 40-something days left in summer-sun before returning to a more mellow climate in Norway).

So what did I do on these days out? Well we had two festivals in the city, first of all Saturday was "Flower Day" in Azerbaijan and all the parks were elaborately decorated for the occasion. Roses, lilies and all the other flowers I don't know the name of were represented. Flowers were arranged to show pictures, inside archways and to make sculptures.

The other festival is the "Maiden Tower art festival". The maiden tower is a old brick tower situated in the edge of the old city of Baku. It's a symbol of the old city and there are a lot of legends and stories surrounding it. For many months the towers was closed due to restoration, and after nearly a year closed the tower is again accepting visitors to discover its history. On each of the 7 floors you can discover a different theory about the tower and see Baku's development through the past 700 years.

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There are many rivaling stories about the tower, but most of them say it was named after the Khan's daughter. She was a beautiful young maiden who fell in love with a commoner, her father was enraged by this and killed the boy. To make sure this wouldn't happen again, he constructed a tower to hide her away. The unhappy girl despised her prison and anguished for her love, so in desperation she threw herself of the roof and fell to her death where she was reunited with her love.

Now back to the art festival, the festival is an annual celebration of the maiden tower, and it allows international and local artist to paint their version the story. A few dozen mini-maidentowers were represented. Norway was there as well, though I have to say I liked last years contribution more..

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Posted by CamillaS 00:04 Archived in Azerbaijan Tagged flowers summer sightseeing spring baku azerbaijan abroad flower_day maiden_tower art_festival Comments (0)

Happy Novruz

New Year Celebration in Azerbaijan

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The months have flown by and I realize I have neglected updating this blog. But I do have some lovely events and places to catch you up about.

Last month Azerbaijan celebrated new year, better known as the Novruz holiday! The celebration marks the start of springtime and a new year. The preparation started a month before the actual holiday with Fire, Water, Earth and Wind weeks celebrated with bonfires and candles each Tuesday. But the proper celebration started on Holiday eve with a family dinner and Novruz games!

I was surprised to see many similarities of the Norwegian Easter traditions in the Novruz celebration. Easter and Novruz is even celebrated around the same time. Much like the modern Norwegian easter Novruz is a family-centric holiday, its a time to celebrate, eat good food, candy and be with family. Its not religious, but stems from the pre-Islamic period of Azerbaijan and its fire-worshipping traditions.

How to celebrate Novruz?
Eggs, children traditionally paint the eggs colorfully, but if you are a bit lazy just put a stamp or a plastic egg wrapper aroud it. You can also have an egg fight! You and your opponent have one egg each and takes turns trying to crack the others egg. If your egg cracks you loose.

Fire Fire plays a special role in Azeri tradition, and especially during Novruz times. During the dinner candles are lit for each person at the table. But more excitingly are the bonfires that marks the streets! All over the city people make bonfires to jump over. You should jump over it three times while wishing for what you want for the next year; this ensures you are cleansed and ready for the new year.
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Sweets & games It wouldn't be a celebration without sweets. The traditional sweets for this time is Shekibura, Baklava as well as dried fruits and nuts. Children also go to the neighbors knocking the door, quickly running away before they are seen but leaving their hats. The person opening the door should leave sweets in the hat for the children to pick up later

Predicting the Future new years is often a time of reflection and making wishes for the year ahead, and that also plays a part of Novruz. Predictions in particular are important. One way is to sneak up to your neighbors door trying to eavesdrop on their conversation. This will predict what the next year will bring to you. There is also many games and activities for single girls to predict who is their future husband, I didn't manage to take a part of that this year though..

Again I should mention this is not a religious holiday, so its mainly fun and games, but it was a very interesting thing to be a part of, take a look at these clips of some of my celebration of Novruz 2014 :)

Posted by CamillaS 02:23 Archived in Azerbaijan Tagged new year baku azerbaijan abroad celebration living_abroad novruz Comments (0)

Autumn of Winds: Azerbaijan

A change of seasons are happening in Azerbaijan

]Its already late October, but my sense of time and space is not really hanging on. Since June I have been in an seeming ever-lasting summer with 30-40 degrees. Coming from a temperate climate of Northern Europe, my perception of time and months was quite connected to the seasonal changes of the nature, but here the seasons are so different, so I've lost these reference points.

Now the climate has definitely changed a bit though, and it proves the eternal sunshine has been replaced by clouds, wind and even a bit of rain. I've been quite acclimated to the warmer temperatures though as I now wrap myself in a scarf because of cold in 17 degrees! Haha.. Autumn has also brought some new flavors; fresh fruits like pomegranates, feijoas, tangerines and apples from all over Azerbaijan are entering the market.

We have also had some important celebrations these last few weeks; Gurban Bayram (Eid al-Adha) a muslim holiday was celebrated last week. Gurban Bayram is the "feast of sacrifice", and its the second religious holiday of the muslim year (first being Ramadan). It honors Abrahams dedication to God when he was willing to sacrifice his own son to God. At the last moment God intervened and told him to sacrifice a lamb instead. The celebration is normally a meal with family and friends and giving to the poor is an important part. My family happened to be visiting me at the time, and luckily we got the chance to see the celebration. So for the first time we got to celebrate a muslim holiday with home-made Azerbaijani food in my friends house a bit outside the city.

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Some views from the city these days; autumn Boulvard, spices at the market, apple-filled cars. These days you can see old cars filled to the brim with apples they sell dirt-cheap in the cities; 1AZN (7,5NOK) gives you 3 KG apples.

Camilla

Posted by CamillaS 10:07 Archived in Azerbaijan Tagged autumn living baku abroad Comments (0)

By the Caspian Sea

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Once again I'm starting up a blog to share my journey abroad with friends and family across the globe. This time I have ventured to the country located at the coast of Caspian sea, a land between Europe and Asia; Azerbaijan.

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Now how did I end up here? Well that started two years ago when I joined AIESEC, a student run organization aiming to have positive impact on our society through providing experiential leadership development opportunities. Now after having served for one year on the national team in Norway I will be leading the national office in Azerbaijan for the next year.

Today is already my third day in Baku and I'm starting to feel like home already, I have had a beautiful first few days, seeing the city and meeting the leaders I will be working with over the next year. Hearing the inspired voices of the AIESECers, sharing their vision and purpose. If the next 365 days will be as engaging and exciting as these, I know I'm in for the year of a lifetime. Of course, I have worked long enough with these sort of exchanges to know that I'm bound to suffer culture shock at some point, but as for now I'm enjoying the experience.

So far I have enjoyed the Azerbaijani hospitality given by the AIESECers and I'm starting to discover the city that will be my home for the next 13 months.

❤ from Baku,
Camilla

Posted by CamillaS 13:00 Archived in Azerbaijan Tagged living baku azerbaijan abroad Comments (0)

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